Latin America Green News: 5/5 - 5/11/2017

Mexico raises renewables goal to 50 percent by 2050, Galapagos’ species under threat, Chilean supermarkets reduce greenhouse gases 

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May 5 - 11, 2017




Mexico is raising its’ clean energy ambition to generate 50 percent of electricity with renewables by 2050. Guillermo García Alcocer, president of the Energy Regulation Commission, announced the new goal after acknowledging that the country is already generating 20 percent of electricity from clean sources. This announcement is the latest step the country has taken to show leadership in the climate and energy sector. García expects the third energy auction, expected to take place in November this year, to allow Mexico to meet its interim goal of achieving 35 percent of renewable energy by 2024. Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell expects that winners from the two prior energy auctions, both in 2016, will bring in US$6.6 billion in investment and 5,000 MW of installed capacity in new projects. Together, the three auctions can lead to a tripling of Mexico’s clean generation capacity. (Hoy 5/10/17, Bloomberg 5/9/17)


Meanwhile, former Mexican President and current president of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, Felipe Calderón, signaled at a conference this week that global investments in renewable energy are set to increase 168 percent by 2030. That is, from an expected US$2.8 billion to US$7.5 billion. He highlighted that this year is poised to become the third consecutive year that electricity generation investment in renewables is greater than in conventional energy. Calderón specifically cited technological developments for helping renewable energy compete financially with conventional energy. For example, thanks to technological advances, the cost of solar photovoltaic energy has decreased by almost 90 percent in the last decade. (El Financiero 5/9/2017)


Climate Change


The release of certain refrigerants such as hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) contributes to the depletion of earth’s protective ozone layer and increases the greenhouse gas effect. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Chile alone emits 361 metric tons of these gases on an annual basis. To reduce this figure and introduce climate-friendly alternatives, the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition have provided co-financing to create a pilot program in two Chilean supermarkets that will install and utilize transcritical carbon dioxide refrigeration systems. These new systems are superior to conventional refrigeration devices because, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they also provide a 20 percent savings in energy use. The country’s Environmental Subsecretary, Cristián Gutiérrez, said that the program is a prime example of the types of actions that the country should continue enacting with collaboration across public, private, academic, and non-governmental actors to address climate change. (La Tercera, 5/9/17)


The Colombian Department of National Planning released the results of a survey designed to measure the impacts of climate change on the country’s business sector. Results indicate that 66 percent of the 151 companies surveyed have been impacted in some way by climate change. The impacts vary from changes in the costs of production as well as changes to access to energy and water resources. Although a majority of respondents have created plans to adapt to these changes, only 30 percent have made the necessary budget allocations to fund these plans. Silvia Calderón, Subdirector for Sustainable Environmental Development, said results of the survey indicate that companies will be forced to determine how to remain competitive in a world fraught with the impacts of climate change. In particular, businesses will need to grapple with an increased frequency of droughts and flooding. (El Tiempo, 5/9/17)




Chile’s Ministry of Transportation announced that in November of this year, the city of Santiago will add two fully electric buses to its “Transantiago” bus fleet. The new clean and quiet buses will reduce operational costs by 70 percent relative to buses powered by conventional fuels.  Though the initial cost of electric vehicles is higher at the time of purchase, they have reduced per-kilometer costs, from 300 Chilean pesos to 70 Chilean pesos. Minister of Transportation, Paola Tapia, commented that “We are taking a big step towards a more efficient public transportation system… more responsible with the environment, but above all, with quality standards that users have requested from us.” (RevistaEI 5/11/2017)





Leatherback turtle
Credit: Alastair Rae


According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, several species of marine wildlife are under threat of extinction. The Galapagos albatross, carey turtle, and leatherback turtle are nearing extinction while dolphins, whales, and crocodiles are considered threatened. The Ministry believes there is a link between this decrease in species population and the presence of eight heavy metals in the Gulf of Guayaquil and increased levels of mercury in marlins tested earlier this year. Furthermore, the National Institute of Fisheries found that more than 50 percent of coastal water samples exceeded the allowed level of sediment, which could be attributed to shrimp fishing, agricultural activity, and human settlements. (El Telegrafo, 5/9/17)




This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.